With the exception of maybe New England's Wes Welker, slot receivers rarely get the recognition they so richly deserve. They may not post big numbers, but their contributions are important to an offense's success.
Jason Avant is that man in Philadelphia. Known for making big plays to keep drives alive, Avant embraces his role in the slot.
"It's called 'taxing,'" Avant said. "You go over the middle, you're going to have to pay a tax. You can do business there, but you're going to get taxed. And that tax is getting hit. You get used to it."
The 6-foot, 212-pound Avant welcomes the contact and most important, he always finds a way to hold on to the football.
Tough sure-handed = slot receiver.
Slot receivers on a good year will produce 40 to 50 catches and a handful of touchdowns. And Avant did that in 2009, setting career highs with 41 receptions, 587 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. His season included his second career 100-yard receiving game at San Diego on Nov. 15. In that contest, Avant posted career highs with 8 catches for 156 yards. He caught a career-long 58-yard pass from Donovan McNabb and a 21-yard, highlight-film catch on a 3rd-and-18 play.
A fourth-round draft choice in 2006, Avant is not flashy. He doesn't need to be. He simply makes solid contributions at opportune times.
Including postseason games, Avant has converted 32 of his 37 career third-down catches for first downs.
"Jason is a big-time player," said quarterback Donovan McNabb. "He's a guy you have to have on your team because he's a vocal leader and he's a leader by example, and he makes big plays for us. I think that teams know, come second-and-medium, or third-and-long, or third-and-short, you have to find out where No. 81 is."
Avant may never be considered a star -- with the inflated statistics and Pro Bowl invitations -- but he is far from under-appreciated.
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 2:00 p.m., January 22